The International Rugby Board (IRB) have said that Irish referee Alain Rolland got it wrong when he refused to allow Australia to make a replacement and forced them to play the last 14 minutes with 14 men.
Australia wanted to make a late substitution against South Africa in a Rugby Championship match last Saturday but Rolland refused to allow the substition and told the Wallabies that they had already made their seven changes.
South Africa had already built a strong lead at 26-8 and the numbers advantage in players allowed them to score a bonus point try and seal the match.
A IRB statement said that according to Law 3.12 (exception 2) Australia reserve hooker Saia Fainga’a should have been permitted to replace injured hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.
Loftus touchline microphones picked up Rolland – an experienced referee who refereed the 2007 World Cup final – telling the Australians that they could not make any more substitutions as they had already used the usual maximum of seven.
IRB match official selection committee chairman John Jeffrey said: “The area of substitution management is a team effort. This was an unfortunate case of human error by the match officials who accept that they made a mistake.”
Rolland, who will also referee the match between South Africa and New Zealand in Soweto this Saturday, was assisted in Pretoria by Greg Garner of England and Romain Poite of France with South African Shaun Veldsman the TMO.
Rolland also refereed the second Test between South Africa and England in June this year which means he will have been in charge of a third of the Springboks matches this year after this weekend.
Rolland provoked a fierce debate at last year’s World Cup when he sent Wales captain Sam Warburton off early in the game for a spear tackle on Vincent Clerc – some criticised him for destroying the game as a spectacle while others said he was right to do so under the strict rules governing such tackles.